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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
It sounds wild to say this — I actually can’t believe that it’s something I’m saying — but here it goes. My family and I are part of a new feature-length documentary premiering at Universal Studios in LA, streaming on PBS now and playing in 14 cities nationwide in May 2023, and I want to invite you to watch it.
Titled “Unconditional,” the film follows three families – including mine – exploring how mental health is, in the words of director Richard Lui, “not what we think it is.” You can go right now and see the trailer at unconditionalmovie.com or find a quick link to it at humansoutside.com/links or find it in the show notes.
You know I started Humans Outside to share my own journey spending time outside, much of it as a form of mental health. But outside of a few episodes about veteran issues, I don’t talk a lot here about our family challenges around the hidden injuries of mental health in the form of PTSD and a traumatic brain injury my husband sustained as part of his military service. But it’s a big deal that impacts every aspect of our lives. And we’re not alone on this journey.
Here’s what else Richard Lui, whose own family is also in the film, says about this documentary:
Mental health, he says, “is not only the polar extremes of what the movies or media make it out to be. It also comes in shades of gray and in places we do not expect or know it. It is also not a subject that is inherently negative. Mental health can be positive. It can be about strength. And many times it is.”
“This film shows the half-full benefits of mental health and how to recognize them,” he writes.
“We follow three families. Kate, who is a mental health expert with a terminal diagnosis. Luke, a veteran who spent time in Afghanistan, struggles with PTSD and TBI. And my dad Stephen, who spent his career as a social worker caring for senior citizens, and battles his 8th year of Alzheimer’s. Each family struggles and celebrates while caring for loved ones. Kate’s husband, Shane, feels unprepared to become head of the household and lose the love of his life. But he finds strength and power because a pandemic keeps him home for two years. Luke’s wife, Amy, keeps her family together, realizing she doesn’t need to know everything she wants to, in the end learning ways to laugh more heartily than she ever has.”
OK, that’s what Richard Lui says about the film. But here’s why I think you should watch it: it’s my story — our story — of mental health outside of what you see here on Humans Outside. But it’s not really about my family so much as it’s about the hidden stuff that so many people are dealing with both in and outside the veteran and military communities. It’s about finding joy, and hope, and strength and about pushing through our individual challenges while leaning on the strength of each other.
This film is a big deal to us, because it’s a raw – so raw – but also because of what we hope it will do.
Because here’s the big picture: whenever you’re dealing with something hard — mental health, challenges, limitations, whatever — it can be very isolating. It is easy to feel like you’re completely alone in the battle. It can be easy to try to hide, to put on a good face.
But you’re not alone. Other people are dealing with this too. And the only way we make sure this myth of being alone gets dispelled is by talking about it.
And let me tell you: spending hours and hours over years being so raw and talking about these challenges with a film crew? That’s the opposite of not talking about. That’s as loudly talking about it as you can get in my experience.
Doing it was scary. And seeing it on film? Knowing that literally anyone could be out there right now watching me talk about our family’s challenges on their local PBS station? THAT is terrifying.
But I did it because I want you to see it. I want you to know you’re not alone. And if this isn’t a battle you’ve fought, I want you to know that next door or down the block, someone might be fighting a battle you literally cannot see.
OK, so how can you watch this? Here’s the rundown as of the time of this recording.
From May 3 to 9th you can see this film in a local theater if you live in Los Angeles,, Seattle, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Cleveland, Boston or Hartford.
You can watch it on your local PBS station sometime in May — youll need to check your local listings. If you’re here in Alaska that will be May 29 at 9 p.m., which is past my bedtime if we’re being honest but it’s fine.
You can find it streaming on the PBS app starting May 2 and, after July, you can still stream it that way but you’ll need to be a PBS Passport member which is fine, because supporting local public television is a cool way to make sure we always have a way to watch the most important show ever made, Sesame Street.
You can also see it on the PBS WORLD Channel nationwide simultaneously May 17 (7pm ET/4pm PT) and May 18 (12am ET/9pm PT and 8am ET/5am PT).
And starting May 31, you can rent it on Amazon Prime or Apple TV.
In short, there are a lot of ways to watch this.
I’m actually recording this Diary earlier than I normally do, because when you hear this episode first releases will be the day of the film premier in Los Angeles, and my family will be attending. We should be fresh off a day at Universal Studios where my kids are going to be over the moon to spend time in Harry Potter World. We’re intending that to be a total surprise for them.
But while we’re doing that, you can see the film too. And I hope you do. Because, at the end of the day, a story is a gift that has meaning — but it only has that meaning if it’s shared and then received. I hope my story as its shared in this film project is a gift for you, and that it makes you feel seen or gives you a window into the world.
Until next time, we’ll see you out there.